The overall global situation today is probably much worse than the depression of the 1930s. It would be recalled that it was mostly the financial bubble of the time that triggered what is nowcalled the ‘great depression.’ After the 1929 stock market crash about 10,000 banks and a significant number of corporations were liquidated and unemployment soared to 27% in the US. But the crisis was mostly contained in the core countries of the West and even the lossthere was mostly sustained by the insignificantly numbered owning classes (share holders, etc) As the economies of the semi-peripheries and the peripheries(Africa, etc)were not intensively integrated to the world system, (save the extraction sector) they remained essentially unaffected one way or the other.
Even in the West, the productive sectors of the economy remained surprisingly buoyant. Steel and the down stream industries of auto, etc actually flourished. It was the time of ascendance for the likes of the General Motors! Infrastructure and the associated industries of construction, electrification, telephony, etcwere booming, clearing the way for giants like the General Electric to emerge on the global scene. It was also expansion time for the oil industry, which went global big time. Barrel of oil that is selling for over $100 today was then selling for less than 100 cents! However, since most people were living hand to mouth, they greatly suffered the consequences of unemployment/income loss. At the timethere weren’t many government sponsored social safety nets on which the working mass (industrial, agriculture, etc) can rely on. But the economic system as a whole was not in danger, at least not from gross internal structural disequilibrium, as it is now!
Today, it is not only the financial crisis that is threatening the collapse of the global economic system, or more appropriately the world system in general. It is resource depletion/shortages, population pressure, climate/environmental crisis and democratization (a more enlightened and hence a more demanding global populous) that are conspiring to make the finance instigatedcrisis a protracted and systemic one! Whenever financializationbecomes the preferred/dominant mode of accumulation in an economy, global or otherwise, it is almost always because of lackluster accumulation at the productive level. In that sense financialization is only a symptom rather than the cause of structural economic crisis. We will not go into the various reasons that underlie the continuous and systemic decline of rate of profit, be it sectorially or across the whole economy, (local/global) that unleashdestabilizing financialization. Suffice is to say the issue has been treated by almost all schools of thoughts, ranging from the radical to the conventionalists.This inherent problem of the world system is called; ‘the crisis of accumulation!’. Be that as it may, do we have what it takes to overcome the crisis?
The lack of deeply reflective and dynamically articulating mature leadership at the global level is a serious impediment, to say nothing about establishment institutions that intentionally discourage creative approaches to real global issues. Hence the leadership of the system as a whole, frankly speaking, is not up toit. The G-20 that is supposed to give leadership to the existing system seems to have no sincerity, no power, even no desire to tackle the major economic issues of the day, let alone the bigger problem of sustainability; climate change, resource shortage, etc. It can’t even propose drastic restructuring to rein in some of the activities of the major global financial institutions that continue to cause havoc to the global system. Many prudent analysts have proposed the nationalization of the big financial players of the world (by their respective governments) so that the chronic issue of debt can be worked out openly, with a view to cut them to size and ultimately transfer them to the owning public/class, once their health is restored.
Instead the 1%, to use the Occupy Movement’spowerful framing, only encourages parochial jingoismas a solution to all and sundry. Or as the old left would say, the subjective condition (leadership)is clearly asleep on the wheels of the speeding Titanic! On the other hand, the depth of the crisis threatens global catastrophes, (man/nature-made) which in turn keep inspiring all sorts of mass uprisings that might not quell down until major transformative projectsare in place at the global level–the objective condition! When the two become completely out of sync, there willbe a rupture that would ultimately lead to a sustainedand probably violent revolution against the whole prevailing world system!
Here is an assessment from one who has seen it all. “There has never been but one question in all civilization-how to keep a few men from saying to many men: You work and earn bread and we will eat it.” Abraham Lincoln. Good Day!